Philippines' Boracay Resort Island No Longer "A Cesspool"

MANILA, Philippines

Philippines' Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said last week that Boracay Island is slowly recovering, two months after its closure to tourists at the end of April as part of intensified rehabilitation efforts to regain its status as a top visitor destination.

Cimatu said that the tag “cesspool” given by President Duterte to the island is no longer applicable and indicated that the island may reopen for tourism ahead of schedule.

Philippines initially closed the island of Boracay, the country’s top holiday destination to tourism, for 6 months commencing April 26 to allow environmental and water rehabilitation. The move, a “total closure” to tourists, was announced after an April 4 cabinet meeting. In February the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte had complained about the island’s environmental degradation, notably describing Boracay, 300 kilometers south of Manila, as “a cesspool”.

Unregulated tourism development over several years has led to environmental degradation of famously pristine beaches and important wetland areas. A Philippine senate hearing heard in March that hotels and other establishments have encroached on 5 of Boracay’s 9 wetlands.

Philippines has been a signatory of the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands since 1994, committing the country to “conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Boracay was awarded 2012’s best island in the world by international travel magazine Travel and Leisure. In 2014, the resort island was at the top of the Best Islands in the World list published by Condé Nast Traveler while also, as recently as 2016, Boracay headed Conde Nast’s of Top 10 destinations to watch.

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